Friday, 25 December 2009

Brooklyn Trip

  It's nice every once in a while to remind myself that I can just pick up, from my routine, humdrum life, and just take off and go somewhere far-ish away.  I'm not like some people I know who have to leave the continent every time they get a few days off work (Gina), but I did leave the country.  And I convinced my over-daddying brother-in-law Mish to come along.
  My friends live in Brooklyn.  It's a nightmare to drive or park near their place.  Every time I do, I have to continually go out in the wee hours of the morning to move the car so it doesn't get ticketed, and the last twice I went there, I got ticketed both times, and got a dent in my car.  So this time, I decided to park my car (van) at my uncle's house in New Jersey, and take the train in.  I wasn't sure how practical this would be. It turned out to be very practical.
  I'd heard there was a snowstorm in that area, but being from Canada, I assumed that, given a few days, they'd have it all cleaned up.  Good thing I didn't drive down with that assumption and try to park in Brooklyn, it turned out.
  Mish and I left before lunch on Monday and drove down at a leisurely pace.  I am now up to a three-for-three record of times I've been hauled out of my car at the border and handcuffed for having the same names and birthdate (including year) as a local felon.  As always, they were scared at first (eight officers taking up position tactically along the supporting pillars) and then apologetic and embarrassed.  Mish and I celebrated our successful entry into this somewhat paranoid country by stopping to eat at a Flying J for the all-you-can-eat buffet.  I can't eat much, but I love buffets for the variety.  We arrived at my uncle's place in New Jersey in the evening when it was good and dark.  We had to walk in a surprisingly chilly cold snap to the train station a mile away.  (My uncle and aunt were in Florida, so weren't there to visit with, nor to get a ride to the station.)

  The train swept us to Penn Station in New York City, which was packed.  [This picture, like the others in this post, is grabbed from the Internet.  I couldn't be bothered taking pictures which would look just like other people's on the 'net, and Mish had his videocamera to get notable stuff on.  There was a time when I used to photograph everything, and it really detracted from my enjoyment of really being at the given place, in the moment.]  Mish and I enjoyed seeing a Tim Hortons restaurant in the concourse of Penn Station in New York, because Tim Hortons is such a Canadian-seeming thing (it's a doughnut and coffee shop named after a hockey player).

  Leaving Penn Station and going down to the subway, we were soon in the dingy, greasy, oily, grey, depressing environment that's been down there beneath New York City for I have no idea how long.  It's all grit and blackened gum ground into the dead cement.  It always makes me think of Ron Perlman as Vincent in the 80s romantic/action TV show Beauty and the Beast, in his lion-faced makeup, heroically getting around New York on the tops of subway cars.  A look at the top of any subway car reveals he'd never fit, or would leave a greasy smear all along the roof for a few miles.

  Mish and I were travelling light, especially for me, though I did bring a modified XBOX (classic) loaded with games.  We arrived and saw that we'd been very sensible not to try to park a car in Brooklyn.  Not only wasn't the snow cleared away, it had been plowed (by earth removal equipment like bulldozers and backhoes) right over all the parked cars, trapping them in snowdrifts which also contained the mostly torn-open trash bags of the uncollected week's garbage.  I saw a shiny new SUV with a snowplow attached to the front and one of those inverted cone things which one can push or put on the back of a lawn tractor to seed the lawn with, attached to the back to salt the road.  The seed-thing was red, and made of plastic.

  Mish and I arrived in time to say goodnight to the kids, hung out with Michael and Bethany, picked up some snacks and played XBOX games.  Mish and Michael got kinda fixated on Rocky: Legends.  Burnout: Revenge, Soul Calibur II and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas were also big hits, as they hadn't played these before, being dads and all.

   The next day, Mish, Michael and I set out for the city.  We had a couple of plans in mind, including seeing the Dakota hotel, in front of which John Lennon was killed (I'd read Let Me Take You Down and was anxious to put visuals to what I'd read about), and seeing the American Museum of Illustration.  We had a long, chilly walk through Central Park, and got to the Dakota and were a bit sombre, then set off for the museum.

We had a slow, careful look at the art on the walls in the Museum of Illustration.  It was a bit different from looking at art in a modern gallery, as it is very accessible, used as it tends to be for magazine covers and, well, illustrations and the like.  We were amused by the Afrodisiac comic art displayed.

 As night fell, we went on a couple of missions of mine: to revisit The Strand, reported to be "The World's Largest Used Book Store, with 18 miles of books."  I got some graphic novels and things, and a free canvas tote bag to put them in.
Next we saw a store called Gothic Renaissance beside one (or part of one) called either Halloween Adventure or New York Costumes.  We had fun checking out all the stuff in there.

 You never did see so many choices in top hats, bustiers, frilly black shirts, severed limbs, Roman armour, wigs, props, hats and masks.

We then hit Forbidden Planet, the city's biggest comic book store, and goggled at more stuff that we carefully didn't buy all of, and I came out with a free canvas tote bag containing two t-shirts (a "Recognizer from Tron" one, and a "Captain Marvel's nemesis Black Adam" one) for $30, because that was the sale they were having.  Then we were hungry and adjourned to the nearest authentic-looking deli-ish place we could find, which was called Silver Spurs, and was great.  Kosher pickles and corn chips made on the premises, a myriad hamburgers, all of unusual size, and a decor which was an odd mix of industrial and western.  I had a sandwich on flatbread, with deep fried cajun spiced fish filets in it, with lettuce, tomato and some really awesome tarter sauce.  The washroom had some free postcards advertising Bored to Death, which I like, but only the main character was left, and not the Ted Danson or Zack Galifianakas ones.

  We then went back to Chez Michael and Bethany, where the kids had been playing Lego Star Wars II on my XBOX (they don't have a video game system and thought the XBOX was great).  The little one went to bed and I played an hour of LSW II with the elder son, who is about 7.  Then the room mate took over babysitting the sleeping children and the lot of us packed up Michael's 100% graphite (i.e. no wood) guitar and went to his studio to check out his stuff.  A long, chilly trek later we were in a studio in an industrial part of Brooklyn.  Right next door was an Apple/iPod repair centre office, with a Bill Gates welcome mat to wipe one's feet upon.  Paintings were admired, beer was drank (in my case, Michael gave me a giant bottle of Ruination beer.  In Mish's case, a six of Pabst Blue Ribbon in cans with the plastic rings) and Michael's bargain-bin records were played.  Stevie Wonder and James Brown, along with Johnny Cash and Billy Preson were enjoyed.  Then the graphite guitar (and a second guitar which was kicking around the studio) came out and we found there was no pick.  As artists use all the margarine tubs they can find, Michael took an Exacto knife and cut a pick-shaped bit of neon green plastic out of the cap for an aerosol can of varnish and I played with that, though it was rigid and curved.  Fun was had.  Then Michael's studio neighbor Joe, who makes quirky little sculptures with motors and gears, all designed to do a bunch of whirring and clicking, and then have the outcome of all the action be something anticlimactic like a small nail tapping or something, came in and we went and looked at all of his things, which were fired up and let run all at once, affixed to the walls of his studio.  Bethany gave me a neck and shoulder massage, as my muscles there have been tensed right up since probably October.  It was amazing.

 The next day Mish and I got up late and did the whole trip in reverse, taking the subway to Penn Station, eating some awesome pizza in the concourse (mine was chicken with sour cream and mozzarella), getting a train to New Jersey (I accidentally hit the touch screen an extra time and bought three tickets, so will have an extra one to use in future, perhaps, as they don't refund them.  The machine spit out some new gold little American dollar coins as change), walking a mile from the train station to the waiting van, then driving back up, stopping at the same Flying J for a repeat of the meal we'd had two days earlier, crossing the border with no trouble and getting home late, happy to be back in our cozy little country.

Now I have a metallic gold decorated Black Adam t-shirt to wear with a black suit coat to teach in.  How tasteful and chic.

Monday, 21 December 2009


Went to see Avatar(d) with some good friends.  It was like witnessing a head-on collision between Battleship Earth and Disney's Pocahontas, or dating the retarded love child of Fern Gully and David Lynch's Dune.  James Cameron has effortlessly out-stupided Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer in one go.  A bigger piece of shit than Armageddon and the American Godzilla combined.  The 21st century's answer to the Final Fantasy movie.
Visually stunning, of course.  But then, so would being beaten violently about the head with a brick garishly painted in day-glo colours by a blind autistic child, be.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Getting Far Too Silly With my Examples For My Grade 11 Jane Eyre Work Sheet

Sample Jane Eyre Chapter Commentary Done Well:


Chapter 5: Jane Takes the Children To The Park

  In chapter five, Brontë depicts Jane taking the children to Blasted Heath Park, where they have candy, fly a kite, meet Bert the sidewalk artist and have a magical adventure inside his chalk drawings.  Brontë first introduces the aforementioned Bert in this chapter.  Bert strikes the reader as charming, funny and maybe a bit of an American doing a fake British accent.  Although Jane’s conversations with the children are those of a governess or nanny speaking to children who must obey her, the most important and revealing conversation in this chapter is the one between Jane and Bert, who speak as equals.  Jane is a bit sharp and critical at first, but soon starts to flirt right back at Bert, who obviously is trying to get somewhere with Jane romantically.  This is most unquestionably seen when Bert says “I find your whimsical feminine posterior undeniably pleasant today, Miss Eyre, comfortably ensconced as it is, pleasantly residing with ghetto aplomb behind its happy panniers to the wonder of all who gaze upon you.” (Brontë 178)  In this chapter, Brontë finally reveals that Jane is secretly a man.  I predict that Bert will be revealed to be a French illusionist in need of an assistant well versed in the art of female impersonation, and the two will elope to Paris, rather like in the Dickens novel Great Expectations.



Sample Jane Eyre Chapter Commentary Done Poorly: (what is wrong with it?)


Jane takes them to the park

  In chapter five, Jane took them to this park, were they fly there kite and meet Bert, the sidewalk artist and went inside his chalk drawings.  First they went to a zoo, where Bert danced with the penguins.  Then they went to a café were Jane and Bert sang a song.  And they danced on the ceiling with Jane’s uncle, which they defiantly enjoyed.  Brontë introduced Bert.  Bert strikes the reader as nice.  Jane is speaking with someone her society would consider her equal, someone she has authority over, or something who has authority over her.  “I found the liver pudding to my liking, though it was perhaps not quite up to Mrs. Poole’s usual efforts.  The paté was unlike any I have had the indisputable and unique pleasure of placing within my visage, though many a tasty morsel has been thus encompassed.  As if the gustatory delights unfolded from the murky shadows of your bottomless picnic basket did not suffice, I find the company of your darling wee charges quite pleasant as well, though doubtless you and I could lead the conversation into considerably darker and deeper channels without their precious ears taking in the heated descriptions of lands far beyond their ken.  I am rough and blunt I affirm, but know that this is my accustomed manner of speaking and that I will not change it a whit for anyone.  Why mr. whipstock (I cannot find it in me to call you bert!) I ejaculated.  Is it too much to ask that you confine your wayward tongue to exploring the repast I have provided and to discourse more app8ropriate to the hearing of these little ones?  Ah, but miss eyre, you really do raise a fire within my pounding breast.  I find your whimsical feminine posterior undeniably pleasant today, miss eyre, comfortably ensconced as it is, pleasantly residing with ghetto aplomb behind its happy panniers to the wonder of all who gaze upon you. mr. whipstock I really must protest! I of course replied, with a blaze of crimson burning hotly in each cheek.  Your manly crudity is undeniably appealing to my feminine nature, though it rankles somewhat and smacks of ill breeding as well.  He lit his pipe and gazed silently upon me for a time.  Finally the day grew dim, gentle reader, and with reluctance and a rising sensation of tingly warmth in my tummy I took the children by the hands and led them homeward to Hogwarts. In this chapter, Brontë finally revealed that Jane was a man.  I beleive that Bert will be nice in the next chapter to, and indeed, threw out the hole rest of the play.




[If you are curious what they've been asked to do that this work is samplematic of, it is this:]



Work For Jane Eyre

For the first ten chapters, do 1-6. (numbered here for clarity.   Do not number them when handing them in.)  After chapter 10, drop the plot summaries.  After chapter 26, start doubling up chapter entries (27/28, 28/29 and so on) I will not insist that this chapter work be typed, though I prefer it unless your spelling and handwriting is that of a goddess):


1. Chapter Subtitle (for example “Chapter 28: Jane Buys A Motorcar”)

2. Plot Summary:  Write a one-sentence chapter plot summary.  It must be no longer than one sentence and start with the words “In chapter __, Brontë describes/reveals/depicts/has Jane/relates…” and continue in present tense.  (Use a lot of “ing”s on your verbs unless you choose “has Jane…” or “relates”.  Try out “describes,” “reveals,” “depicts” and all the others.)

3. New Characters and Settings: Address the introduction of new settings, and new characters.  If it’s new and it may matter, talk about it.  This should start with “Brontë (also) introduces ____________ [new character / setting] in this chapter.  ________ strikes the reader as ____________, _______________ and maybe a bit _______________.”  (To save work, do not introduce more than three new people per summary.  Pick the three you expect are more important.)

4. Conversations: This is the main stuff.  Take note of the most important conversation you feel Jane has in each chapter.  If you haven’t already covered the conversation in the plot summary, do a one-sentence summary of who Jane speaks with and what the conversation is about.  In a Victorian novel, chapters with no long, eloquent conversations are few and far between.  Then briefly record whether Jane is speaking with someone her society would consider her equal, someone she has authority over, or something who has authority over her.  Then concisely note whether or not Jane acts in accordance with this societal expectation: note whether Jane is honest, rude, opinionated, forceful and/or blunt and etc., or whether she is quiet, meek and/or deferential and etc. (in other words, is she bowing to authority, position or status, resisting authority, position or status, wielding authority, position or status herself, or is she speaking comfortably as to a person of equal authority, position or status.

5. Use of Quotation:  Go back and, for your choice of 1-5, and not picking the same section for every chapter, support what you have said using a quotation from the chapter itself.  You should write something along the lines of “This is (most) [clearly/obviously/tellingly/graphically/ unquestionably] seen [in the words/when Brontë writes/when [character] says] “your quotation here, with square brackets to put fix verbs and pronouns so they work well.”

6. There are about two important secrets which are revealed in the last third of the book.  When Brontë finally reveals what she has kept secret throughout the book, record this.


Bonus: You will demonstrate extra ability if you personalize a chapter response by adding to any one of tasks 2-6, a short statement beginning with something like “I feel..,” “This reminds me of…,”  “I predict…,” “I believe…,” “I think…,”  or something similar.